World Mental Health Day
With World Mental Health Day in our midst, we wanted to share this anonymous post from IMED Birmingham with you all. This anonymous post captures the hard hitting side of MH but also finishes with some positivity and hope. We hope this post can resonate with those who may need to hear this.
People often refer to depression as a darkness, a void. I think of it more as an absence of colour. I can’t pinpoint when it started – it had slowly seeped into my life until everything was grey, until I was exhausted and everything I did – thinking, moving, talking – seemed like it took twice the energy it should. I was constantly treading water, doing my all just to barely keep from drowning. Meanwhile, others whizzed around me with what looked like endless energy, swimming countless laps around me without breaking a sweat. I felt like a failure, like I couldn’t do anything right – who was I to have these big dreams when I couldn’t even handle the first hurdle? Why should I try, draining myself in the process, if I was going to fail anyway? Life was bleak, the future was going to be even bleaker, what was even the point?
I remember, in my worst days, wanting to get away, wanting it to just end, resenting the fact that suicide was forbidden in Islam, just hoping for something to happen to me so it wasn’t self-inflicted – as if this was somehow a loophole. In the end, Islam protected me – I couldn’t do anything for fear of the consequences of my actions.
At my most distressed and desperate, I was willing to try anything to calm down – at someone’s advice, I put my headphones in and listened to some Quran, and I’ll never forget the feeling – it was like I was being spoken to directly, reassured, it was exactly what I needed to hear:
93:3 – your Lord has not abandoned you nor has he forgotten
94:5-6 – for verily with hardship there is ease, verily with hardship there is ease
My heart, which had previously felt so heavy, just about burst – it was too full of emotions I couldn’t even recognise – happiness, sadness, shame, relief, despair, hope.
It was like my world had been opened up to a new way of thinking – like being told that I wasn’t okay, but that I would be.
It was a turning point in my thinking but I wasn’t ‘cured’. Years later and I still take antidepressants, I still go through bad times, I still struggle. But I know that there is such a thing as recovery, even if it doesn’t last forever. A few weeks after starting treatment, I realised just how long it had been since I had last felt ‘normal’ . It was almost impossible to even imagine myself in the state that I had been in – the thought processes that had seemed so logical to me a few weeks ago seemed suddenly flawed and bizarre.
For me, medicalising my mental illness made it into something ‘other’ that could be treated rather than a part of me that was abnormal and wrong. It was something that happened to me, a hardship that I was going through, and that I needed to do something about. After all, the Prophet Muhammad SAW once said ‘seek medical treatment, for Allah SWT did not create an ailment for which he did not also create a cure’. So to anyone who can relate, who might be in a similar position, I have these points for you to consider:
- Your life as you know it – is it what you would like for your loved ones – your younger sibling, your mother, your children? What would be different? Why should you not deserve the same?
- A struggle is a struggle is a struggle. Everyone experiences hardship in their life. There will always be someone who you think has it ‘worse’ than you but that does not mean your pain is any less distressing.
- How would you react if someone told you that what you’re going through is explained by a mental illness? Would you deny it? Why? What does mental illness look like to you?
- In order to function and appear ‘normal’, many people put on a front – they may seem put together, happy, full of life. Not everyone with depression looks like Eeyore.
- The statistic claims that 1 in 3 medical students have a mental illness – I suspect it is an underestimation. You are no less capable of achieving your goals, nor are you less weak for needing help. If anything, it’s the status quo around here!